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Village Council— Morris Bean, police ‘overreach‘ are topics

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At their July 5 meeting, Council members heard from villagers concerned about the environmental practices of the local company Morris Bean, and also about the “overreach” of some local police officers.

Council had originally planned to vote on an ordinance that would allow Morris Bean to tap into the Village sewer system, following a request from company leaders last month. However, Village Solicitor Chris Conard stated at the beginning of the discussion that the vote was tabled until Council’s July 19 meeting, so that he and Morris Bean leaders could “further clarify the scope of the agreement.”

The company’s request for the sewer tap-in follows several decades of discussion between the longtime local company, located just outside Village limits, and Village government regarding whether the company should be allowed to use Village sewer services for its sanitary (rather than industrial) sewage without being annexed to the Village, which is the usual requirement when the Village extends utilities outside its boundaries. If a company is annexed, it pays Village income taxes for its workers.

However, several previous Village Councils have been open to extending sewer services to Morris Bean due to fears of contamination to the Village well field if they don’t allow the tap-in. The company, located a half mile north of the well field and within its protection area, has since the late 1990s been urged by the Ohio EPA to either update its sanitary sewer system or tap into the Village system. While the two entities came close to agreements at various times, the tap-in has not yet happened, and the Morris Bean sanitary sewage plant continues to operate inefficiently, according to the EPA.

At the meeting Council members repeated their intention of moving forward with the agreement.

Stating that the Village’s relationship with Morris Bean has been “rocky” in recent years, Marianne MacQueen said, “My opinion is that we’re best served by having strong relationships with local industries.” And in response to those who have accused the company of polluting, “I don’t think anyone in this room is not guilty of polluting,” MacQueen said.

“Water is our most precious resource,” said Judith Hempfling, stating that while it would be preferable for the company to be annexed into the Village, “We don’t get to decide that. They get to decide.” She also stated her concern that should Morris Bean build a new plant, it would still be located close to the Village well field and therefore a potential source of pollution.

Several villagers expressed their concerns about the company’s environmental record or motivation for wanting to join the Village sewer system.

“Companies want to do the profit-maximizing thing,” said Wittenberg Economics Professor David Wishart. “How much are they saving by tapping into our sewer system?”

In response to Council Vice President Brian Housh’s assertion that the company would save money by constructing its own plant, Wishart asked to see the cost of construction.

A lack of information was also cited by Lee Huntington, who said, “My sense is that Council hasn’t done due diligence.” Huntington asked to see a cost analysis of the tap-in, along with information on the effect of the company’s wastewater on the Village wastewater plant. In response, Manager Patti Bates stated that Water Superintendent Brad Ault believes the Morris Bean sewage will have no effect on the local plant.

George Bieri, who said he neighbors the company as both a homeowner and land manager at Glen Helen, stated a lack of trust in the company, urging Council to reject the sanitary sewer tap-in and force Morris Bean to build its own system.

“I feel Morris Bean has dragged its feet on a number of issues that involve pollution and contamination,” he said, stating that the company had backed out of a 2012 agreement to tap into the Village sewer.

However, according to Council President Karen Wintrow, it was actually the Village that “pulled the plug” on the agreement at that time.

Manager Bates said that she will compile relevant information on the potential agreement and bring it to Council’s next meeting.

Concerns about police

During the Citizen Concerns segment of the meeting, Council members heard from several villagers concerned about the behavior of local police.

Beth Bridgeman focused on a “pattern of overreach by officers” that had affected her son and students at Antioch College, where she works. Recently, her son had at night parked for a few minutes in a handicapped space on campus while waiting in the car for a friend, she said. Two other handicapped spaces adjoining the space were empty. A Yellow Springs policeman ticketed her son with a $250 fine for the offense; the same thing happened to a friend of his a few hours later.

“That’s an enormous amount of money for an 18-year-old to pay for a small lapse in judgement,” she said.

Villager Bill Farrar, who identified himself as the father of three young adults, also spoke of the distrust between young villagers and the local police.

“I want you to know that police are not seen as a resource or as someone to call on for help,” he said.

And former villager Ken Odiorne, who owns a rental property in town, read a written statement regarding police policy.

“The critically needed and indispensible trust generated by the fine work of some members of the Yellow Springs police force is being squandered by the actions of a small number of others,” Odiorne stated, also calling for the replacement of current Chief Dave Hale.

In response, Wintrow emphasized that Council has made policing and local justice a priority, by creating a new Village justice system task force.

“This is not a discussion that can happen quickly, but we will move as quickly as we can,” she said.

And Judith Hempfling, the Council liaison on the task force, stated that, “What we’re hearing about is the breakdown of a relationship. We need to strengthen the relationship of trust between community members and the police.”

Council approved members of the new Justice System Task Force. The members, who will begin meeting in September, are Basim Blunt, Pat DeWeese, John Hempfling, Steve McQueen, Jennifer Berman, Ellis Jacobs and Kate Hamilton, with Al Schlueter and Dave Turner as alternates. Marianne MacQueen will serve as the alternate Council liaison.

Other items of Council’s July 5 business will be covered in next week’s News.

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